Heatwave plan to protect vulnerable from summer heat

Published on Thursday, 26 May 2011 11:20
Posted by Matthew Abbott

With summer on the horizon, this year’s Heatwave Plan is launched today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (May 26th)


The annual plan, first published in 2004, is updated each year to provide health and social care services with emergency planning and preparedness guidance in the event of a heatwave.

It operates from 1 June to 15 September and is based on information provided by the Met Office. The Met Office can trigger one of four alert levels according to ‘threshold temperatures’ that range from the late 20s or early 30s depending on the region. In summer 2010, the highest recorded temperature was 31.7 degrees Celsius on 9 July in Gravesend, Kent.

The four levels are:

  • Level 1 – Summer Preparedness and Long-term Planning: Green;
  • Level 2 – Alert and Readiness: Amber;
  • Level 3 – Heatwave Action: Red; and
  • Level 4 – Emergency: Red Emergency.

While many people enjoy sunny weather, high temperatures can be dangerous for vulnerable groups such as the young, older people and those with serious illnesses. It can make heart and respiratory problems worse and in extreme cases, excess heat can lead to heatstroke, which can be fatal.

Andrew Lansley said:

“This year’s heatwave plan encourages everyone to be prepared before a heatwave strikes.

“Many of us look forward to the hot weather but over exposure to the heat can cause some to dehydrate or get heat exhaustion.

“The elderly and those with long term illnesses are particularly vulnerable to the heat and we need to be aware, within families, in communities and across the National Health Service, of how we can minimise these risks when the summer temperatures rise.”

Regional Director for Public Health, South East Coast, Dr Yvonne Doyle said:

“Keeping cool in the summer heat is important to avoid serious or life-threatening illnesses.

“Healthcare staff and care home managers need to make sure that patients and residents are able to keep cool during a heatwave.

“Keeping indoor areas cool and providing plenty of cold water and ice will help prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke.”

Top tips for coping during a heatwave include:

  • check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves;
  • avoid going out between 11am-3pm;
  • wearing light, loose fitting cotton clothes;
  • applying a high factor protective sun cream when out in the sun;
  • drink cold drinks like water or fruit juice regularly and avoid tea, coffee and alcohol;
  • stay tuned to the weather forecast and plan ahead with supplies;
  • keep plenty of water to hand and stay in the shade where possible;
  • taking a cool shower, bath or body wash;
  • shading south and west-facing windows, shutting them during the day and opening them when it is cooler at night;
  • replacing metal blinds with curtains with white linings to reflect heat outwards where possible; and
  • identify the coolest room in the house.

Source: Department of Health

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